06 July 2017
Week In Brief: INTERNATIONAL NEWS
AUSTRIA: The defence minister announced plans to send troops and armoured vehicles to blockade the Brenner Pass to stop migrants entering the country from Italy.
FRANCE: President Macron summoned the members of both the Assembly and the Senate to Versailles, and addressed them about his aims for national revival which include reducing the numbers of members of both parliamentary houses, lifting the state of emergency, reinforcing anti-terrorism laws and taking a lead in political integration within the EU.
Prime Minister Eduard Philippe announced measures to boost the economy, including spending cuts and reductions in business tax.
Police in Argenteuil arrested a right-wing extremist with convictions for condoning terrorism, and charged him with plotting to kill the president on Bastille Day.
GERMANY: Ahead of the G20 summit due to take place in Hamburg later this week, the police raided the homes of anarchists and left-wing extremists, and 200 police officers were sent home to Berlin after an all-night party involving drunkenness, sex in public and fighting (what some considered “a normal Berlin evening for off-duty officers”).
German MPs voted in favour of same-sex marriage. The upper house has already approved the measure. A law should come into force by the end of the year.
A woman who founded a liberal mosque in Berlin needs 24 hour police protection after receiving death threats. She and 6 others set up the mosque which allows men and women to pray together and permits women imams
ITALY: Police detained 116 people during an operation against the ‘Ndrangheta, the Calabrian organised crime clans which control the European cocaine trade.
The authorities are threatening to close Italian ports to vessels and craft carrying migrants, because the number arriving has swamped reception centres. It has been estimated that 10,850 migrants were picked up in 4 days last week. A spokesman said that the centres held, at present, 180,000 migrants. The capacity was 200,000. He said that 10,000 more people were arriving every 2 or 3 days. Italy has announced that it may seize rescue ships crewed by aid agencies. The government has arranged an emergency summit after 12,000 migrants arrived within the space of 48 hours. The summit is intended to include ministers from France, Germany and Spain.
RUSSIA: Five Chechens were found guilty of the murder of Boris Nemtsov two years ago. Mr Nemtsov was a former deputy prime minister and a critic of President Putin. Opposition activists criticised authorities for not investigating who was behind the murder.
President Xi Jinping of China met President Putin at the Kremlin, to discuss the Korean crisis and other issues.
UKRAINE: The mother of a Russian captured in Ukraine while fighting for pro-Moscow separatists has asked the Kremlin to secure his release as she says he is a serving Russian soldier. The Kremlin insists that no serving Russian soldiers have been deployed in Ukraine.
Kiev and a number of security experts worldwide have blamed the Kremlin for last week’s cyberattack which crippled the government’s computer systems. It also caused major disruption to a number of global businesses. The Russian oil company Rosneft was hit, but the damage there was singularly minimal and restricted.
VATICAN: Cardinal Pell, who was chosen by the Pope to reform the Vatican’s finances, has been summoned to appear in a court in Australia to answer accusations that he sexually assaulted young people, including choir boys, in the 1970s. He vehemently denies the allegations.
The Pope has not renewed the term of office of Cardinal Muller who is in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It was said that he was not being active enough in investigating 2,000 allegations of abuse by priests. Cardinal Muller’s replacement may be Cardinal Ladaria Ferrer, although there are claims that he covered up the activities of a serial sex abuser. There are reports that the Vatican police broke up a homosexual orgy in an apartment said to be occupied by the secretary to Cardinal Coccopalmerio, head of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. Apparently, the Cardinal had recommended his secretary for promotion, but this now seems unlikely because of the scandal and because the secretary has spent time in hospital recovering from a drug overdose.
Middle East and Africa
IRAQ: In Mosul, at least 20 female Isis suicide bombers mixing with refugees have launched attacks on troops and civilians. Fierce close-quarters fighting continues as Isis makes a last stand in the few hundred metres of ground which remain in its control.
ISRAEL: Building has begun on the first official Israeli settlement in West Bank for 25 years. The government proposed a new Israeli settlement (including apartments, offices and a school) in Palestinian east Jerusalem. Critics have warned that such developments will make Arab/Israeli peace initiatives even more difficult.
Narendra Modi was welcomed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on a three-day visit, the first by a prime minister of India to Israel.
LIBYA: The East Libyan authority is close to victory in its battle against Islamists in Benghazi, according to Khalifah Haftar’s Libyan National Army.
MALI: President Macron of France visited Mali and urged the leaders of Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkino Faso and Chad to expedite the creation of a French-sponsored anti-terrorist military force for the region.
NIGER: Boko Haram militants murdered 9 people and kidnapped 37 women in an attack on a village near the Nigerian border.
QATAR: Qatar ignored the 13 demands from its Gulf neighbours, but Kuwait is trying to mediate. The initial deadline was July 3, but Saudi Arabia agreed to a 48 hour extension. The Gulf states threatened that the rest of the world might have to choose between them or Qatar for trade, investment, strategic alliances, etc. The head of the US Senate armed forces committee Bob Corker blocked future arms sales to all Gulf states until the crisis is resolved. The UN called the demand to close to Al-Jazeera ‘an unacceptable attack’ on free speech.
SYRIA: Fighting between Turkish troops and the Kurdish YPG broke out around Afrin, at the western end of the border with Turkey.
The rebel group Failaq al-Rahman accused the regime of using chlorine gas in an attack on in Tarma near Damascus.
A triple car-bomb attack killed 18 people in Damascus.
In the battle to drive Isis from Raqqa, the Syrian Democratic Forces fought their way into the Old City after coalition jets blew two breaches in its ancient walls.
Far East, Asia and Pacific
AUSTRALIA: Cardinal Pell, number three at the Vatican and head of Vatican finances, was charged with sexual assault from the 1970s.
HONG KONG: Police arrested 30 protesters holding a banner demanding full democracy as President Xi was due to arrive to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to China from Britain.
China’s foreign minister dismissed the 1984 Basic Law, a joint declaration signed by UK and China to protect the rights of Hong Kong citizens, as “not at all binding”.
INDIA: Thousands of protestors, including Bollywood stars, demonstrated in Delhi and Mumbai against violent attacks on Indian Muslims. Last week one young Muslim was stabbed to death and another seriously wounded when they and two others were attacked by 20 men on a train near Delhi.
KOREA, NORTH: An intercontinental ballistic missile was tested. It flew for 37 minutes, reached an altitude of 1700 miles and landed in the Sea of Japan 580 miles way. Pyongyang claimed that it was capable of reaching the USA. The test was denounced by Japan and South Korea.
KOREA, SOUTH: President Moon Jae-in is to meet President Trump for a two-day summit.
BRAZIL: Police announced that they had arrested South America’s most wanted drugs boss, Luiz Carlos da Rocha.
Former cabinet minister Geddel Vieira Lima, an associate of President Temer, has been arrested during police investigations into allegations of corruption at a state-run bank.
USA: A gunman opened fire in a New York hospital, killing a doctor and wounding 6 others before killing himself.
New Jersey’s governor Chris Christie was criticised for sunbathing on a beach after he had closed beaches and parks to the public because the state legislature couldn’t agree on a budget.
VENEZUELA: A hijacked police helicopter buzzed government buildings in Caracas and allegedly dropped hand grenades on the Supreme Court and fired shots at the interior ministry. Pro-president elements claimed that it was a coup attempt by rogue security officers; some in opposition claimed that it was a stunt stage-managed by the president.
The attorney general Luisa Ortega, who has spoken against President Maduro, has had her assets frozen and told not to leave the country by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court (controlled by the president) is having a hearing to determine whether she can be tried for professional misconduct. The National Assembly – the elected parliament which opposes the president – appointed a vice-attorney general; a day later the Supreme Court appointed someone else to the same position.
President Maduro promoted 139 officers to the rank of general or admiral in a single ceremony which has widely been seen as an attempt to keep the military on his side. Two generals (the head of the intelligence agency Sebin and the former commander of the National Guard) are due to appear before the attorney general to answer charges of human rights abuses against protesters; the president promoted one of them and awarded a medal to the other.
Anti-president protests continue; more than 80 protestors have now died.
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